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Bibliographies (not biographies)
As a librarian, I am a list maker, and lately I have been lucky enough to review the bibliography titles in the Mid-Manhattan Library Art Collection. Bibliographies are elaborate lists that contain citations, and sometimes abstracts, of other books, journal articles, etc., that relate to a focused subject. If you have ever written a research paper, you probably created a bibliography at the end, listing the publication information of the materials you used in your research process.
An example that I find particularly charming is a two volume work entitled Early American Book Illustrators and Wood Engravers 1670-1870 by Sinclair Hamilton. It contains a catalog of works about illustrators and engravers organized first by year, then by artist, of books and articles relating to the title. This bibliography is especially generous because it also reproduces illustrations of some of the works cited. The picture here is from The Progress of Sin, or the Travels of Ungodliness... by Benjamin Keach (click to enlarge).
While still treasured by serious researchers, this type of book has become less significant to the research process for the general reader with the rise of online database resources that provide a searchable interface to a broad area of up-to-date published works. ARTbibliographies Modern is a valuable electronic resource in the Art Collection that provides abstracts whose scope covers modern art, design, and photography subjects.
The ease of use, availability, and currency makes electronic resources very appealing, although I find the personal touch of the printed bibliography admirable. Someone with a keen interest in early American book illustrations has taken the time to organize all the material he could find on the subject and cite it together in a lovely volume.
NYPL has librarians whose job title contains the heading bibliographer (i.e. Humanities Bibliographer). It rings magically in my ears. It means that a person gets to spend time searching for materials on a specific subject area that will organize, inform, illuminate, and inspire the interests of the rest of us. Whether found published together in a book, or organized into an online database, all of our librarians can help you find and create a bibliography that will lead you toward a work of your own personal expertise.